ALBUM REVIEW: Wounded Cross – Our Future Is Dead

In existence for just three years, the life of Midlands act Wounded Cross was extinguished before its time. Unable to release anything while they were still a going concern, the band’s first (and only) demo recordings have finally been mixed and released onto YouTube three years after their split. Continue reading

ALBUM REVIEW: Firewind – Firewind

The ninth album from Greek power metallers Firewind finds the band introducing their latest vocalist Herbie Langhans, the former Sinbreed frontman replacing fellow German Henning Basse earlier this year. And the eponymously titled Firewind (AFM Records) is a fine way to get things rolling with their new frontman. Continue reading

Biff Byford Updates Fans on His Health, Saxon Tour Dates, and Upcoming Solo Single

Biff Byford of Saxon has been home recovering from an emergency heart operation that put his band Saxon off the road, has given one of his customary Friday updates on Twitter. Biff is making progress on his recovery and hopes to start exercising in December. On the music front, Saxon is booking more “big shows” in addition to their previously announced career retrospective headline shows in the United Kingdon and Germany. Biff will also be releasing a new solo single on December 13th., the title track from his upcoming solo album The School of Hard Knocks. He is also putting together a solo band to tour behind the album. Great news all around Biff! Continue reading

Saxon Frontman Biff Byford is Recovering From Open Heart Surgery

Heavy Metal legend and Saxon frontman Biff Byford is recovering after undergoing an emergency triple bypass surgery last Monday, September 23rd. A heart bypass surgery, or coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery, is used to improve blood flow to the heart. A surgeon uses blood vessels taken from another area of the body to bypass the damaged arteries. The term triple bypass refers to the number of coronary arteries bypassed in the procedure. In other words, a triple bypass means three coronary arteries are bypassed. Biff posted on social media to offer an update on his health. Saxon was forced to postpone all its previously announced 2019 shows so that Byford could undergo the procedure. His post-op recovery period will last into 2020.  Continue reading

Saxon’s Biff Byford Needs Immediate Heart Surgery, Band Postpones Remaining 2019 Shows

Legendary British Heavy Metal band Saxon, who was prepping for their 40th-anniversary tour, has had to postpone all remaining tour dates in 2019. Frontman Biff Byford needs immediate surgery for a heart problem and his and his post-op recovery period will last into 2020. Biff sent a message to fans to update them. Some dates will be rescheduled and some will need to be canceled. Details below. Continue reading

Duel – Valley Of Shadows

It’s a soulful, heavy trip with Texan quartet Duel. Formed largely from the ashes of Groove rockers Scorpion Child, new album Valley Of Shadows (Heavy Psych Sounds) is their third album in three years but despite the prolific nature, there remains a certain impact from the tracks on offer here. Continue reading

Saxon – Thunderbolt

You have to wonder how Saxon do it. While some bands can take four or five years, or in some cases even longer, to release new music, Saxon have never taken more than three, and the quality rarely dips. They might only be simple songs with simple structures, but it’s not very often you can listen to a Saxon album and not be able to remember the choruses to at least three songs after just one or two listens. Continue reading

Saxon – Battering Ram

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I was thirteen years old, staying up late and listening to The Friday Rock Show on an old transistor radio the first time I heard Saxon. My parents were sleeping in the next room, so clearly not wanting to be disturbed by my latest, and somewhat “interesting” choice in music (a school friend had only introduced me to Metal a few weeks before) had told me to “keep it down”. A lot. So, with the volume knob set infuriatingly low, I did my best to listen to Tommy Vance (RIP) introducing the band’s latest single, ‘Do It All For You’, and was completely blown away by their singer. By god, she sounded fantastic!

Wait, what?

Yes, thanks to the combination of a lack of volume and a tinny 3” mono speaker, I was convinced Saxon were fronted by a girl. It came as quite a shock a few weeks later, while flicking through the pages of a popular, then bi-weekly music magazine, to discover their singer was actually a big northern bloke called Biff Byford. Okay, his hair was ridiculously bouncy and he wore skintight spandex leggings, but he was most definitely NOT a lady.

In more recent years, the hair may have become a little less fluffy and the waistlines might be a little larger, but the band have never strayed (too) far from their original path. After the rather lightweight Destiny (EMI) in 1988, the band released a sequence of enjoyable, if somewhat unspectacular albums, but 2004’s Lionheart (SPV) appeared to give them a new lease of life. Every release since then has maintained the same high standard and that trend continues with latest offering, Battering Ram (UDR).

Kicking things off in emphatic style, the bruising title track is quickly followed by ‘The Devil’s Footprint’, a song based on a story from 1855 where a number of townships believed cloven hoof prints found in the snow one morning belonged to the devil. After briefly tricking me into thinking my computer had developed a stutter, the stop-start riff of ‘Queen of Hearts’ quickly transforms into one of the album’s finest moments, and while ‘Destroyer’ may not be the most original of titles, it’s certainly appropriate as Biff attempts to demolish his vocal cords at the song’s climax.

By this point, I’m starting to wonder if Battering Ram contains any bad tracks at all. ‘Hard and Fast’ and ‘Eye of the Storm’ answer my question with a resounding no, but things do drop off a little with ‘Stand Your Ground’, which for all its speed and neat little middle section, doesn’t really go anywhere. ‘Top Of the World’ immediately steadies the (barely) wobbling ship anyway, and is followed by the almost Sabbath-esque crawl of ‘To The End’. David Bower of Derbyshire NWOBHMers Hell lends his considerable voice talents to six minute ‘The Kingdom of the Cross’, a darkly atmospheric song about the First World War, while “bonus track” ‘Three Sheets to the Wind’ rounds things off a little strangely. A throwaway drinking song which sounds a little out of place coming after such a brooding, melancholic masterpiece.

With producer Andy Sneap at the helm, the album sounds fantastic. The guitars are razor sharp, the drums are big, the bass is clear, and Biff’s vocals ring out as powerfully as they have ever done.

Now, if only they’d go back to doing videos featuring desert roads and big American trucks…

 

8.0/10

 

GARY ALCOCK

Motörhead – Saxon -Crobot: Live at The Shrine Auditorium

 

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40 years of the loudest rock n roll band known as Motörhead made its presence felt as despite recent rumors of frontman Lemmy Kilminster’s health dilemmas, they still powered through a somewhat up and down performance that lacked the magic of their legacy.

Motörhead © Kevin Estrada / kevinestrada.com

Motörhead © Kevin Estrada / kevinestrada.com

Following a classic Lemmy opening greeting, they opened with ‘Damage Case’ and ‘Stay Clean,’ (both from their 1979 Overkill album), which brought out the classic Motörhead feel that fans have grown to love. While guitarist Phil Campbell and drummer Mikkey Dee were on fire and lit up the room with their larger than life performances, Kilminster’s vibrant stage personality took a back seat and was not quite as electric as usual. Regardless of the reasons, Dee still blew the crowd away with his dynamic drum solo and Campbell brought out his guitar solos that fans have grown to love.

Motörhead © Kevin Estrada / kevinestrada.com

Motörhead © Kevin Estrada / kevinestrada.com

The highlights of the evening included their well known tunes ‘Going to Brazil’ and ‘Ace of Spades’ to close the main part of their set list, and Kilminster’s son Paul Inder joining the band on stage for ‘Overkill,’ which Dee once again lit up the room with his lightning feet pounding away on the drums.

Motörhead © Kevin Estrada / kevinestrada.com

Motörhead © Kevin Estrada / kevinestrada.com

 

 Motörhead © Kevin Estrada / kevinestrada.com

Motörhead © Kevin Estrada / kevinestrada.com

Motörhead set list:

Damage Case
Stay Clean
We Are Motörhead
Metropolis
Over the Top
Guitar Solo
The Chase Is Better Than the Catch
Rock It
Lost Woman Blues
Doctor Rock
(With drum solo)
Just ‘Cos You Got the Power
Going to Brazil
Ace of Spades
Encore:
Overkill
(Lemmy’s son, Paul Inder, joins on guitar)

Saxon © Kevin Estrada / kevinestrada.com

Saxon © Kevin Estrada / kevinestrada.com

Veteran UK metallers Saxon are celebrating 35 years as a band and coming out of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal scene, they showed the crowd despite their semi-cult status in the US, they are a force to reckon with elsewhere and still have quite a bit left in the tank. Frontman Biff Byford was on fire and belted through a strong cross section of classic tunes fans have grown to love. Favorites such as ‘This Town Rocks’ and ‘Power and the Glory’ got the crowd going, and rarely was the room quiet while they performed. Campbell joined the band during ‘Denim and Leather,’ closing out a strong set that hopefully will bring them back to US shores again in the near future.

 

 

 

 

 

Saxon © Kevin Estrada / kevinestrada.com

Saxon © Kevin Estrada / kevinestrada.com

 

Saxon © Kevin Estrada / kevinestrada.com

Saxon © Kevin Estrada / kevinestrada.com

 

Saxon set list

Battering Ram
This Town Rocks
Sacrifice
Power and the Glory
Heavy Metal Thunder
Wheels of Steel
The Eagle Has Landed
20,000 Ft
Crusader
Princess of the Night
Denim and Leather
(with Phil Campbell)

 

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WORDS BY REI NISHIMOTO

PHOTOS BY KEVIN ESTRADA

Civil War – Gods and Generals

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It has been three very quick years since one of, if not the biggest, power metal acts Sabaton released their crowning glory Carolus Rex (Nuclear Blast), a bastion of bombastic brilliance, and one of the best Euro Metal albums. However, guitarist Rikard Sundén, drummer Daniel Mullback and keyboardist Daniel Mÿhr departed shortly after its release to establish Civil War with Astral Doors’ vocalist Nils Patrik Johansson.

Power Metal is an odd genre. Everyone is a strong, clean technician and there are so many competent acts, though it is very hard to be exceptional and damn near impossible to be distinctive or unique. Sabaton achieved that latter feat, and not just through having a characteristic vocalist in Joakim Brodén. Considering their contributions, the trio of ex-‘ton’s have done well to try and strike out and find their own voice again and while there are moments, such as ‘USS Monitor’ where you can imagine Brodén’s voice enhancing the chorus (Johansson, with a higher pitched Kai Hansen meets Biff Byford reedy voice, doesn’t have half the charisma of the Sabaton man), in the main they have managed to clear enough space to pitch their own towel on the crowded beach of Power Metal.

So, half the battle won, and Gods and Generals (Napalm) begins well enough with a rapid fire pairing of ‘War of the World’ and ‘Bay of Pigs’. However, things quickly go downhill, with the duo of ‘Braveheart’ and ‘The Mad Piper’, which it has to be said are simply fucking naff and frankly embarrassing; keyboard led, nursery rhyme melodies, (not to mention the dog-shit bagpiping) and lyrics that can’t have taken more than five minutes to write. Fortunately things do pick up and by the time the more epic ‘Schindler’s Ark’ comes around, a track with a vocal nod to legendary David Coverdale, and a musical tip to Angra, the early missteps are nearly forgotten, if not forgiven.

But, as I said, it’s easy to be a decent power metal band, but it’s hard to standout; one, because these are narrow lines we’re trapped between, and two, because the very best prove how big the gulf in class is. Civil War has a heritage to hook people in, but they need to improve the music to get them to keep coming back.

 

6.0/10

Civil War on Facebook

 

STEVE TOVEY